Archive for the 'Archive' Category

A Dallas Arts Patroness . . . Identified

This photo has been popular in Museum histories for a long time. It was used in the book Seventy-Five Years of Art in Dallas: The History of the Dallas Art Association and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1978) by Jerry Bywaters; the 90th Anniversary Timeline; and the 2003 Centennial history exhibition, and she has always been identified as a “Dallas arts patroness.”

The panel of the image from the 2003 exhibition currently hangs in the Archives. When curators come down, they always search to see if any of the paintings in the photo are part of the collection, though nothing is familiar. I have always thought that the paintings in the photo were from one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) early annual exhibitions, but I had no idea which one. Then I came across a memo that identified the painting at her feet as an Albert Pinkham Ryder work that was to be part of the 2002 Gilded Age exhibition touring from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I was thrilled with this clue because now I could search the digitized exhibition catalogues and figure out the exhibition to at least date the photo.

It turns out that the painting in the photo was not the one in the exhibition, but a different Ryder painting of a ship at sea. Using books on Ryder from the library, I was able to identify the work as Ryder’s painting The Waste of Waters is Their Field, now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Albert Pinkham Ryder (American, 1847-1917). The Waste of Waters is Their Field, early 1880s. Oil on panel, 11 5/16 x 12 in. (28.8 x 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 14.556 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 14.556_SL1.jpg)

With the new information, I could search for this painting in the digitized catalogues. I identified the exhibition as being from the Third Annual Exhibition: American Art from the Days of the Colonists to Now, held by the DAA at the Adolphus Hotel’s Palm Garden, November 16-30, 1922.

By using the exhibition checklist in the catalogue, with a bit of library and internet searching, I was able to definitively identify two of the other works in the photo, with educated guesses on two others. The oval painting is Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna by George de Forest Brush, also in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

George de Forest Brush (American, 1855-1941). Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna, 1919. Oil on canvas, 43 1/2 x 35 5/8 in. (110.5 x 90.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and by subscription, 19.93 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 19.93_transp3194.jpg)

The painting leaning on the settee below it is Arthur B. Davies’ Banquet to a Hero, identified from the article “Davies the Absolute” by F. Newlin Price in the June 1922 issue of International Studio.

F. Newlin Price, “Davies the Absolute,” International Studio LXXV, no. 301, June 1922, p. 213-19.

Now I had the exhibition and date, but I still had no idea who the “patroness” was. Time for a different tactic.

The exhibition was curated for the DAA by Robert MacBeth of the MacBeth Gallery, and being a good archivist, I went searching for records from the gallery in hopes of finding a new clue. I found the records at the Archives of American Art. Using the digitized scrapbooks from the MacBeth Gallery Records, I found a whole section of news clippings related to the Dallas exhibition in the 1922 scrapbook.

I was flipping through these pages, when all of a sudden, there was my patroness photo!

MacBeth Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Scrapbook 8, 1922 January-1924 December.

The photo illustrated the November 13, 1922, Dallas Times Herald article “Noted Concert Singer Delighted Over Collection of Art Treasures in Dallas.” The concert singer is Madame Louise Homer. She knew Robert MacBeth from his New York gallery and he invited her to preview the exhibition while in Dallas for a performance at the coliseum. So, the woman in the photo is technically an art patroness, just not a Dallas one.

The other paintings in the photo are also identified in the article, and I am happy to say that my educated guesses were correct.

This was a fun research project to work on, and happily it resulted in definitive answers and a mystery solved—if only they were all like that.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Cookie Monster Learns to Weave

Cookie Monster, who was in town for a Sesame Street Live performance, visited the DMA and tried his hand—paw?—at weaving. Cookie Monster’s visit on February 28, 1995, included a lesson in weaving from experts demonstrating the use of looms that were on display in the Gateway Gallery, now the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections, for the exhibition The Art of the Loom.

I hope Cookie Monster brings a smile to your day, as he always does to mine.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Who’s the Boss

Today is national Boss’s Day so we decided to look back on the legacy of one of the DMA’s former bosses, Jerry Bywaters.

Jerry Bywaters with his painting On the Ranch

Jerry Bywaters was the figurehead for the Dallas Nine, a group of artists from the 1930s who all focused on individual styles while working together to present unique aspects of the Texas landscape. Throughout his career, he was an art critic, professor, museum director, and, of course, a Texas artist. From 1943 to 1964, Bywaters served as Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, which would merge with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts to create the DMA in 1963. He believed museums should be responsible for inspiring and cultivating art within the community, something that is still very important to the DMA today.

Jerry Bywaters, Self-Portrait, 1935, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan E. Boeckman in honor of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 1990.5

The DMA is fortunate to have a number of his works in our collection, including his paintings Share Cropper (1937) and On the Ranch (1941). Celebrate one of the DMA’s bosses with a visit to Level 4 to view Bywaters’, and his contemporaries’, work.

Kimberly Daniell is the Senior Manager of Communications, Public Affairs, and Social Media Strategy at the DMA.


Exhibition Throwback

More than fifty years after their Dallas debut, several paintings by South American artists are on view at the Dallas Museum of Art. These works first appeared on the Museum’s walls in 1959 as part of the exhibition South American Art Today at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park (DMFA). Now they reside in the terminus of the Tower Gallery, which formerly housed a portion of México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde.

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, selected thirty works from the Latin American art collection and private collections to fill the walls of this T-shaped gallery. The front portion of the gallery contains twenty works by artists living in Mexico from the 1930s to 1950s.

Perpendicular to this space is the high-ceilinged gallery featuring ten works by South American artists. Eight of these entered the Museum’s permanent collection following their presentation in South American Art Today—an exhibition scheduled during the 1959 State Fair of Texas, when the DMFA’s Fair Park building welcomed thousands of fair-goers.

For the assembly of the show, DMFA Director Jerry Bywaters hired Dr. José Gómez-Sicre, a Cuban art critic and writer who was the Chief of the Visual Arts Section of the Pan-American Union (now the Organization of American States). Following the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, public enthusiasm for international solidarity and cultural exchange increased. Though some in the United States still feared the political influences of Communist-controlled countries, Bywaters and DMFA patrons embraced the need to expand awareness of contemporary art practices in South America.

To curate the exhibition, Gómez-Sicre traveled to ten countries and selected works by seventy-one artists. Following the close of South American Art Today, the DMFA purchased sixteen of the works; another four paintings from the exhibition have remained in the collection as long-term loans.

Humberto Jaimes Sanchez, Composition in Blue, by 1959, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1959.57

The eight paintings now on view in the Tower Gallery as part of the Latin American art collection were produced by artists in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, and Uruguay. In his introduction to the 1959 exhibition catalogue, Gómez-Sicre described his intention for the works to demonstrate that “the creative talents of Latin America have acquired a world vision which enables them to express national themes in subtle accents, rather than by raw, literal reproduction.”

Today visitors can enjoy these works from South American Art Today with the benefit of hindsight on the 20th-century movements that surrounded mid-century artists. The art historical context of Abstract Expressionism is readily apparent. Color, scale, and gestural brushstrokes predominate in this throwback to 1959.

Emily Schiller is the Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

Dear Director

Nowadays we dash off a quick email, send a text, and dread writing a thank you note, but handwritten letters were once the common means of correspondence—and not that long ago . . . though being an archivist my idea of concepts like “long ago,” “old,” and “recently” may be a little skewed.

Here are three letters from artists with works in the collection writing to former Dallas Museum of Fine Art and Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts directors. They run the gamut from social commentary to the mundane. I think all of the letters are interesting, though, in how they are informal and hint at the personalities of the people behind the names on museum labels.

The first letter was written by artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi to DMFA director Richard Foster Howard on July 9, 1941.

Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs
Dear Mr. Howard,
I should have written you long ago to thank you for your letter of identification ___ & haven’t had a chance to do so because I have been on move since I left N.Y. the beginning of June.
I am thoroughly enjoying the south-west, working hard, hoping to accomplish something before the summer is over. Here is dramatic scenery and a beautiful climate. I don’t know why more American artists don’t come here to work.
I want to thank you again for your generous letter – it made me feel good – – grateful – Best wishes for the summer.
Sincerely yours, Yasuo Kuniyoshi
July 9

The letter Kuniyoshi refers to is one he asked Mr. Howard to write identifying him as an American painter long in residence in the United States in case he should be questioned by police while sketching outdoors on his south-west tour. He had heard that other artists had been questioned as a result of the “war situation.”

The second letter was written by Thomas Hart Benton to DMFA director Jerry Bywaters on November 1, 1954.

Nov. 1 -54
Dear Jerry,
You may be wondering why I haven’t sent your picture back and, anticipating a possible query, I want to tell you why.
I came back here from Martha’s Vineyard with a commission on my hands which took me to Kentucky for material (three weeks) and which, with a deadline attached, has kept me busy since my return and which will continue to keep me busy for another three weeks or so.
Picture cleaning is tricky business – so give me time. I’ll do your picture up right and you’ll get it back soon enough.
Y— Tom

The picture Benton refers to is unknown.

Finally, here is a letter from Gerald Murphy to DMCA director Douglas MacAgy written on August 5, 1960.

5 : VIII : 60
Dear Donald MacAgy: –
It was good to hear from you. I feel sure that your European trip was successful.
I have heard nothing but the highest praise on all sides regarding the exhibition and the warmest commendation for you in particular for having devised it.
Hank Brennan, who is here, deplores so much that Life was caught napping concerning your exhibition!
Please do let me know when you are to be in NYC this Fall so that the deferred junket of this last Spring to Snedens may be recaptured.
Best wishes for continued success,
Sincerely, Gerald Murphy
PS. Thank you so much for having the clipping sent to me. How much more intelligent ‘art criticism’ is than in the past. I was amazed! GM

Murphy is referring to the DMCA exhibition American Genius in Review: I, May 11–June 19, 1960.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

A Founding Mother

While using the archives for a small research project (more on that in a future post), I was reminded of one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) founding members, Elizabeth Patterson Kiest (Mrs. Edwin J. Kiest). Mrs. Kiest attended the first meeting of the group of art supporters that formed the DAA on January 19, 1903 and she served as DAA Treasurer from its inception to her death in 1917, a century ago this year.

Bronze plaque in honor of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest for her long service as founder and Treasurer of the Dallas Art Association.

The Kiest Memorial Fund was established in her honor, with a plaster cast of Winged Victory as the first purchase. (The piece is no longer in the collection.)

An interior view of the Free Public Art Gallery space in the Textile and Fine Arts Building, with the plaster cast of Winged Victory in the upper left.

Beginning in 1932 the Kiest Memorial Fund was used to fund a purchase prize for the annual Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions, from which works by major Dallas artists were acquired for the collection including Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, De Forrest Judd, Everett Spruce, Charles T. Bowling, Allie Tennant, Perry Nichols, Donald S. Vogel, William Lester, and Octavio Medellin.

In addition to the DAA, Mrs. Kiest was involved in a number of civic and women’s clubs, the foremost being the Dallas Shakespeare Club and the Matheon Club. The Dallas Shakespeare Club would later donate Road to the Hills by Julian Onderdonk to the Museum in memory of Mrs. Kiest.

Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Dallas Shakespeare Club in memory of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest


Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Museum Menagerie

Over the years, a variety of animals have visited the DMA, so, to continue the animals-in-the-archives-themed posts, here are a few of the wildest critters that have been seen around the Museum.

A young elephant named Baby Star made an appearance on Ross Avenue Plaza in the fall of 1984. Unfortunately, the reason for the visit is unknown.

A cougar was spotted in the Museum’s Ceremonial Court in 1990. The cat was here to film a commercial.

A snake attended Nancy Hamon’s Masquerade Ball on May 23, 1997. No costume was required.

This adorable African penguin from the Dallas Zoo’s Animal Adventure Program was a guest at the November 19, 2010, Late Night, to the delight of many.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

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